If I wanted to do this properly, I suppose I’d issue an annotated edition. Something along the lines of Martin Gardner’s The Annotated Alice.
“No joke is funny unless you see the point of it,” Gardner wrote in his introduction to The Annotated Alice, “and sometimes a point has to be explained. In the case of Alice we are dealing with a very curious, complicated kind of nonsense, written for British readers of another century, and we need to know a great many things that are not part of the text if we wish to capture its full wit and flavor.” Lewis Carroll’s version of “You are old, Father William,” in chapter 5 of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, is funny no matter how you read it. But once you know the Robert Southey poem of which it’s a parody–provided by Gardner in his annotations–it’s about the most hilarious thing ever written.
The stapled-together UFO 96, offered here (un-annotated) as a two-part PDF file–click here for part 1, click here for part 2–was published in 1963, evidently by Gray Barker and using the resources of his “Saucerian Press.” The influence of Barker’s close friend James W. Moseley, departed from this world last November, is evident throughout. I’m embarrassed to say I can’t remember how I got hold of my copy. I don’t think UFO 96 was ever sold commercially. I don’t know how many copies were made, or how many still exist. A search at http://www.worldcat.org/ turns up nothing. A Google search for “ufo 96” finds only an MP3 of that name, distributed in 2008 by El Cosmo Group on an album entitled “Maha Lakshmi Dreams.”
UFO 96 was distributed, rather, among the cognoscenti; and although I was never really one of those, I did rub shoulders with them at the First Congress of Scientific UFOlogists in Cleveland, Ohio, in June 1964, and at the Second Congress a year later. (Described on the timeline of my Facebook Fan Page for June 20, 1964, June 24 and 26, 1965.) If I had to guess, I’d say my copy was given to me at some middle-of-the-night bull session of the 1965 Congress. I believe I was told at the time why it was called UFO 96. Some inside joke, which I’ve now completely forgotten and doubt if there’s any way to reconstruct.
When Gardner published The Annotated Alice in 1960, 95 and 89 years had passed since the original publication of Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, respectively. UFO 96 isn’t quite that old–a mere half-century. Yet the UFO world it reflects and satirizes sometimes feels almost as remote as Victorian England was from Gardner’s readers. UFO abductions, and the Roswell crash, are entirely absent. (Abductions didn’t enter the cultural awareness until 1966, Roswell nearly 15 years later.) Of the gallery of notables represented on its cover–in brilliant caricature by Gene Duplantier, perhaps UFOlogy’s most gifted artist–very few are still with us.
Jim Moseley and the beautiful Sandy, to whom he was briefly married, are at the center of the tableau, to the right of the Little Green Man. Gray Barker stands just behind them. At the lower right Orthon of Venus, one of the space people who shared their celestial wisdom with “contactee” George Adamski, holds a picture signed With Love, GA. At the lower left Gabriel Green of the Amalgamated Flying Saucer Clubs of America (AFSCA), who ran in 1960 for the Presidency of the United States, wears a button saying GG for Pres.! (According to Jerome Clark’s UFO Encyclopedia, volume 2, “Green dropped out of the race before the election, but two years later, when he ran on a left-wing peace ticket for U.S. Senate, endorsed by no less than Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling, he received a remarkable 171,000 votes.”) And of course Alfred E. Neuman, standing just beneath Moseley’s chin, is immortal.
I don’t believe Green ran again for President in 1964. But the last piece in UFO 96, entitled “A Moment With … the U.S. Air Force,” imagines what might have happened if he had. “On November 5, 1964, the two major U.S. political parties experienced their greatest upset in history. Gabriel Pink, running on the independent UFO Ticket, was elected President, along with his running mate, George Von Hassle.” (George Van Tassel was another of the 1950s “contactees.”) There follows a “Fact Sheet” issued by the Air Force’s Project Blue Book, as reorganized under the UFO administration with the promised “improvements in investigative techniques.”
Unfortunately a page is missing from my copy of UFO 96, so I can’t provide the details of “Case Number One.” (“CONCLUSION: The object was probably a scout ship from Venus.”) But enough remains of the post-1964 “Fact Sheet” to convey its drift. I imagine the younger people who read it will get enough of the joke to be at least mildly amused. But for us oldsters, who remember the solemn “Fact Sheets” issued by the 1960s Project Blue Book–with their incantatory reassurance, that if sufficient data were available the 2% “unknown” sightings could be explained away like the other 98%–it’s roll-on-the-floor split-your-sides-laughing hilarious.
Same for one of the early entries, The U.F.O. Instigator published by NIGHTCAP, “The National Integrated, Ghastly, Horrifying Theories Concerning Astral Phenomena.” (Takeoff on The U.F.O. Investigator of NICAP, National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena–the largest, most respected, and stuffiest UFO organization of the early 60s.) You really have to have known the original to appreciate the parody. Take the lead article, “WHAT WE DO HERE AT NIGHTCAP HQR.,” a takeoff on the articles of this genre–usually linked to appeals for money–that were a staple of The U.F.O. Investigator:
“Some members think of NIGHTCAP merely as a saucer magazine office. Others believe that the Fight for Congressional Hearings [on UFOs; NICAP’s perennial obsession] take most of our time. Some think we are in it only for the money and point to the fancy home of the Director as an excuse for not donating. To give a more accurate picture, here is a partial list of the work done by our three full-time staff members, one part-time helper, and spies from SAUCER NEWS, who volunteer to work, pretending they are not stealing information …”
You see, SAUCER NEWS was Moseley’s publication (precursor to the later SAUCER SMEAR); and Moseley was the particular bete noire of NICAP, whose irascible assistant director Richard Hall–also now deceased–was long afterward to compare Moseley’s presence in UFOlogy to “a steaming turd on the living room carpet” …
That’s as far as I can get with The Annotated UFO 96. I’m still rolling on the floor.
by David Halperin
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